Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If you can't afford a Tormek Sharpener just yet

It took a lot of late nights doing work on the side to pay for the Tormek and all the wonderful goodies that came packed with it. What surprises me is that the thing I really like most about it is the leather honing wheel .

This is basically a friction drive rubber wheel which has been fitted with a raw leather belt on the outside. To condition it you first give it an application of light machine oil to help the honing compound bind better with the leather. Then you fire it up and even at the very slow speed that the Tormek runs at, the fine scratches left by the grindstone disappear to leave a mirror finish.

Unlike buffers which run at startling speeds and as such are extremely dangerous should projectile motion be achieved (ie Highspeed + Chisel = bad), the Tormek just happily chugs along letting you safely hone your edges to a razor finish if desired. The biggest problem I've had so far is carelessly nicking the handle of a knife on the grind stone whilst using the honing wheel. For a really important job it might be desirable to temporarily remove the stone.

If finances are not agreeable, I think there would be a lot to be said for rigging up a honing device using a stepped down electric motor (thinking a simple belt drive with a high speed small wheel turning a larger slower one) and some scrap leather glued to a wheel - perhaps even a bowl turning blank or a few circles of MDF stuck together. Add a bit of polishing compound to it and you woul dhave a pretty good imitation of one of the Tormek's best features.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Tormek Sharpening System ... sweet as!

Between posts, I've been working on fitting out a corner of back shed to do a little bit of meditative wood turning. Rather than jumping right in and actually turning something, I thought it wise to invest some extra time and cash in getting some sharpening gear together.

Enter the Tormek T7.

The Tormek system is to a bench grinder what a surgeon's scalpal is to a meat-axe. Even the packaging is nice. It must be the first tool or machine I've ever owned that came with its own instructional DVD and hardcover instruction manual. Even one of the optional jig sets came with another complete instruction manual, along with a high density foam packing case that can be screwed to the wall as a storage unit.

Yes, it's a bit expensive but...

The Tormek system has a stepped down electric motor (90 RPM) and a water trough to continuously bath the grindstone. There is even a little magnet under the trough to collect any iron-based filings that come of the stone. The stone is so smooth and gentle you can run your fingers across it without injury (probably not recommended, but you can). According to the manual, the Tormek is safe to use in flammable and explosive environments as it generates no sparks at all.

This cost more than my first car but...

The finish that this thing delivers puts my previous attempts at tool sharpening to shame. The leather clad honing wheel brings the stone finished edge up to a mirror finish - literally. If you want tools that can shave the hair off the back of your arm, this is a great place to start. The only thing I can think of that compares to the type of finish you get is a set of Japanese water stones I saw a cabinet maker use once.

Biggest problem apart from the expense?

Kitchen knives - it turns out that sharpening knives freehand on the Tormek is as relaxing as wood turning... and once you sharpen one knife on this it makes all your other knives seem blunt. Get your friends and family in on the racket and you have more work than you can handle. My first tube of polishing compound that came with the Tormek is almost used up and I've yet to put a wood turning chisel anywhere near it.